SEX-WORK campaigners have slammed police and government officials after three Romanian women were arrested in town centre brothels last week.

Activists from Swindon’s Green Party youth branch have joined with national group Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM) to protest the move.

They say that the arrests, which were carried out by officers from Wiltshire Police and the Home Office last Thursday, could be against European law.

According to police, two houses in Valleyside, off Kingshill, and Stafford Street, off Eastcott Hill, were raided on Thursday at 8.45pm.

Three Romanian women, aged 18, 21 and 28 were detained at the Valleyside house by immigration officers for “failing to exercise their treaty rights as required by EU law”.

All three women had been advertising sex work online, via an adult website. Police said that all three women were open about their sex work and had advertised their services themselves.

Police had previously visited two of the women and given them warnings about operating a brothel. Despite these warnings the sex work continued.

It is believed that the women were taken to a detention centre and will be removed to Romania. It is suspected by campaigners that the women were taken to Yarl’s Wood detention centre, although this was not confirmed by the Home Office.

Jordan Smith, co-leader of Swindon Young Greens, said: “We are absolutely ashamed of the way these women and many others are treated.

“Wiltshire Police claim to have made these three women safer when, in reality, they have been taken to an immigration centre where violence against women has been described as endemic.”

The activists, whose hundreds of social media posts about the arrests caused the issue to ‘trend’ on Twitter on Monday, also questioned the legality of the Home Office’s approach.

They said the government deported the women because they assumed the women were not in work – ignoring a 2001 European Courts of Justice ruling that “sex work” is a legitimate form of self-employment.

A spokeswoman said: “We reject this approach to immigration enforcement as inhumane, dangerous and a targeting of vulnerable people.”

Activists from SWARM said that arrests of these women could make sex workers more vulnerable in the future.

“These laws push sex workers into working alone, making us vulnerable to violence.”

SWARM said they hoped to have questions asked in Parliament about the arrests.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “European Economic Area nationals who have been in the country for longer than three months have to be exercising their treaty rights; that is, working, studying, self-employed, a job seeker, or self-sufficient, in order to have a right to stay.

“If they are not doing so, or don't have a genuine prospect of working, we expect them to return home.

“If someone claims to be working or self-employed, they would need to provide evidence that this work meets certain criteria.”

The Home Office said that this criteria was available on the department’s website.

Det Supt Craig Holden, Wiltshire Police's head of public protection and force lead for adult sexual exploitation, said: “Wiltshire Police will continue to work hard to make sure that any cases of human exploitation are prioritised so offenders are caught and the victims removed to safety.”